220. Telegram From the Embassy in Brazil to the Department of State 1

910. 1. It will be obvious to Department that second Institutional Act2 represents severe setback in our own hopes, which I believe have been fully shared by Castello Branco himself, Juracy Magalhaes, and most key advisers of GOB, that Brazil could maintain uninterrupted march on road back to full constitutional normalcy. All the defects in law and principle contained in the first Institutional Act (see my Embtel 2235,3 April 10, 1964) have been repeated in the second, amplified by fact that this no longer in first flush of successful revolution following near chaos.

2. My first impression, without opportunity since Tuesday4 night return for any conversations outside Embassy staff, is that this measure reflects much greater than necessary concessions to hard line, engendered by unfortunate concomitance of Lacerda intemperance, Kubitschek return, provocative statements of Supreme Court president, and other adventitious factors generating emotional military reactions which have reduced the President’s effective authority and weakened congressional support for government. In longer term perspective, it is the price paid by Castello Branco for failure to start months ago the systematic building of a political base and his reluctance to develop a strong domestic program of propaganda and public relations.

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3. As in previous case, act falls well short of outright dictatorship. Congress remains, although obviously subject even greater executive pressures, press remains free, and opposition political organizations will be recreated under terms July 1965 party statute. Governors elected October 3 are expected to be empowered. Nevertheless, reassertion at this late date of unqualified revolutionary constituent authority is very arbitrary law-making, with no bow either to Congress, plebiscite, or other device for popular legitimation, and we must expect US and foreign press and other reactions accordingly.

3. [sic] In face this fait accompli we confront several difficult problems. Some OARS may be tempted to react vigorously, even to point of cutting relations, or to refuse attendance November 17 LA conference. Domestically, today’s action reflects a polarization of forces which in long run can only serve interests of extreme left or right and which it is in US interest to seek depolarize in any way we can.

4. I believe we neither can nor should avoid a formal public reaction to Institutional Act no. two. Suggested text in para 6 below, choice of spokesman obviously best determined by Department. Purpose is to express concern, strengthen President’s hand in resisting hard line pressures for harsh application new powers, and at same time to indicate continuing broad support of economic policies and program.

5. In event Department spokesman queried re continuation aid to GOB, suggest reply on lines GOB program fits Punta del Este criteria, has just been reviewed and warmly endorsed by CIAP, and withdrawal support would not only undermine further economic and social progress but also reduce prospects early achievement full constitutional normalcy.

6. Begin text: The USG regrets that the Brazilian executive authorities have felt that, in order to safeguard the country from a recurrence of the chaotic political and economic conditions which made necessary the revolution of March 1964, it was necessary to adopt a new series of extra-ordinary measures. It feels confident, however, in view of the record of the Castello Branco government during the past 18 months, that these measures will be applied with moderation and restraint. It [also] hopes that the very substantial progress already made in the efforts toward economic stabilization, renewed development, and the reform and modernization of economic and social institutions will be carried forward to full realization, and that Brazil’s precious heritage of constitutional government based on representative democracy will be consolidated as the institutional foundation for the further progress of this greater sister nation. End text.

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7. Department may wish repeat this message in whole or part to other LA posts.5

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–5 BRAZ. Confidential; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to Brasilia and passed to White House, DOD, and CIA.
  2. Castello Branco announced the second Institutional Act on the morning of October 27. The act revived several elements of its predecessor, including the authority to suspend the political rights of citizens and elected officials for 10 years. It also expanded membership on the Supreme Court, dissolved the existing political parties, and increased the government’s power to intervene in the individual states, declare a state of siege, and recess the Congress. Presidential elections were scheduled for October 1966 with Castello Branco declared ineligible to succeed himself. On October 27 Bundy prepared a memorandum to the President on the crisis leading to the second Institutional Act. A handwritten notation on the memorandum indicates it was not sent. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Brazil, Vol. V, 9/64–11/65)
  3. Document 211.
  4. October 26.
  5. Bowdler forwarded the telegram to Bundy as an attachment to an October 27 memorandum in which he argued: “I think that Gordon might be able to make his point with Castello Branco, Juracy Magalhaes, and others, in private talks and avoid running the serious adverse risks.” Bundy concurred. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Brazil, Vol. V, 9/64–11/65) In telegram 670 to Rio de Janeiro, October 28, the Department informed Gordon that the Embassy was free to express concern to “selected Brazilians” in private, but the Department would continue to give “no comment.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–5 BRAZ) On October 29 Gordon reported raising the issue with Magalhães, who “naturally preferred silence to condemnation, but saw no harm and some real merit” in an official U.S. statement of “regret.” Gordon recommended making a high-level statement as soon as possible, which he believed could be done “without undue inconsistency and to overall benefit.” (Telegram 949 from Rio de Janeiro; ibid.) The Department, however, refused to change its position. (Telegram 688 to Rio de Janeiro, October 30; ibid.)